Chinese President Xi Jinping has issued a strong warning against dissent, saying any attempts to divide China will end in “crushed bodies and shattered bones.”
Xi did not mention any region or adversary by name, but China is facing rising political tensions over protracted, anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong and U.S. criticism over its treatment of Muslim-minority groups.
“Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones,” Xi said during a visit to Nepal on Oct. 13, according to China’s state broadcaster CCTV.
“Any external forces backing such attempts dividing China will be deemed by the Chinese people as pipe-dreaming.”
The warning came as anti-riot police and protesters again clashed in Hong Kong over the weekend, with businesses suspected of being pro-Beijing damaged.
China has accused “external forces” of fueling the violent unrest that has plunged the territory into its worst crisis in decades and accused the U.S. and Britain of interfering in its domestic affairs.
The protests that started in June over a now-scrapped bill to allow extraditions to the mainland have morphed into demands for more democracy, amid Beijing’s perceived tightening grip on the former British colony.
As Hong Kong struggles to resolve the protests, China is trying to end a trade war with the U.S. President Donald Trump has said negotiations on this would be difficult if anything “bad” happens in Chinese authorities’ handling of the protests.
Xi’s warning also comes after Washington last week said they blacklisted 28 Chinese companies over China’s treatment of Muslims from the Uyghur and other ethnic minorities. The U.S. also placed visa restrictions on Chinese officials suspected of involvement in the crackdown.
China faces mounting international criticism over its detention of some one million Muslims in mass detention camps in the remote Xinjiang region. Beijing has called the camps education centers that are key to eradicating religious extremism. But activists say they are part of a wider campaign to wipe out ethnic Uyghur identity.
Xi’s visit to Nepal is the first for a Chinese president in more than 20 years. The Himalayan nation, historically close to neighboring regional power India, has instead drawn closer economically to China in recent years.
Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli told Xi during their meeting that the country will oppose any “anti-China activities” on its soil, according to CCTV. Nepal is home to an estimated 20,000 Tibetans.
China has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since sending troops there in 1950. Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against China’s rule. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of being a separatist who seeks to split Tibet from China. But the ageing leader says he only seeks greater rights for Tibetans.